Fire fighting on board USS Bonhomme Richard is still ongoing. According to Rear Admiral Philip Sobeck, Expeditionary Strike Group Three commander, the ship is stable and the structure is safe and there is no threat to the fuel tanks.
Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3 has conducted more than 1500 helicopter water bucket drops, which are cooling the super-structure and flight deck, enabling fire crews to get onboard to fight the fire internally. Tugs are also providing fire fighting support from the waterline.
As of Wednesday 15 July, 63 personnel, 40 Sailors and 23 civilians have been treated for minor injuries including heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation. There were no personnel hospitalised.
At a press conference on 15 July, Rear Admiral Sobeck said the four main engineering spaces have been investigated first, but no major damage was found. He also said there ‘is no threat to the fuel tanks, which are well-below any active fires or heat sources. The ship is stable and the structure is safe […] We still have an active fire, which we are combatting from both within and outside the ship from multiple access points.’
He adds: ‘I’d like to also thank our partners from state and county as well as the Coast Guard for monitoring the potential impacts to the environment. As we continue to fight the fire, we remain cognizant of environmental concerns regarding the water and air quality.’
Although the focus is on putting out the fire, Sobeck says that going forward, the Navy will conduct a ‘thorough investigation of the incident to include assessing the cause of the fire and damage to the ship.’
The fire started on board the ship on Sunday 12 July while it was docked in San Diego for maintenance.
Picture by the US Navy.